South Carolina Mother Arrested After Newborn Tests Positive for Marjuana


In a state that has finally admitted that cannabis is not only medicine, but medicine that is safe enough for children to use, a young mother is facing 10 years in prison after smoking marijuana while pregnant. 24 year-old Iriana McKay gave birth to a healthy baby girl on April 23 at the Orangeberg Regional Medical Center in Orangeberg, South Carolina. Iriana was arraigned on the charge today and remains in the Orangeberg County jail in lieu a $5,000 bond.

Is smoking pot while pregnant child abuse?

Just because a substance is illegal, does that mean its consumption while pregnant is automatically worthy of a felony charge upon birth? One thing that is missing from this narrative is the mention of anything in Iriana’s blood other than cannabis. No alcohol, no heroin, no cocaine. Iriana didn’t deliver a crack baby, she gave birth to a healthy daughter that tested positive for cannabis. It’s important that we make that distinction because, as you will see, there is little to no chance that Iriana’s unborn child could have been harmed simply because her mother was smoking marijuana.

What are the effects of marijuana on an unborn child?

In 1994 Melanie Dreher, who is the dean of nursing at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, conducted an extensive study in Jamaica. Dreher studied Jamaican women who smoked cannabis daily during their entire pregnancy, and then studied the babies about a year after birth. She expected to see a difference in the babies as far as birth weight and neuro tests, but there was no difference whatsoever between babies born to mothers who smoked cannabis and mothers who didn’t. What researchers did notice, however, is that the babies of the women who had smoked cannabis socialized more quickly, made eye contact more quickly and were easier to engage.

pregnant-woman-smoking-marijuanaMost recently in 2009 investigators at the University of Bristol in Great Britain assessed whether maternal use of tobacco, alcohol, or cannabis during pregnancy increased the risk of psychotic symptoms in their offspring. Researchers examined the drug use habits of the mothers of over 6,300 adolescents – approximately 12 percent of which exhibited some symptoms of psychosis.

Authors concluded: “Frequency of maternal tobacco use during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of suspect or definite psychotic symptoms (in offspring.) Maternal alcohol use shows a non-linear association with psychotic symptoms, with this effect almost exclusively in the offspring of women drinking >21 units (approximately a half-pint of beer or a glass of wine) weekly. Maternal cannabis was not associated with psychotic symptoms.”

It is hard to say whether or not cannabis use has any negative effects at all on an unborn child, but when comparing the scientific as well as anecdotal evidence of cannabis use during pregnancy to mothers who consume other “hard” illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription pharmaceuticals, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that this kid is going to be ok.

Is simply consuming cannabis while pregnant – ostensibly to treat the nasty side effects of pregnancy – really a reason to take someone’s child away and put them in prison? Here are links to other things that can be harmful to your fetus. Maybe we should start arresting women for exposing their babies to these too.